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Editorial comment

Casual observers of American football will understand why the word ‘Swiftie’ was named as a finalist in the Oxford University Press’ 2023 ‘Word of the Year’ competition. This year’s Super Bowl attracted an estimated 123.4 million viewers in the US, making it the most watched broadcast since the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. And, unless you’ve been hiding under a lunar rock, you’re probably aware that the record-breaking viewing numbers have been partly attributed to an army of Swifties (devoted Taylor Swift fans) who tuned in to watch the popstar’s boyfriend, Travis Kelce, in action for the Kansas City Chiefs. According to the Oxford University Press, the word Swiftie was more than 10 times more common in September 2023 than a year before, and its rise in prominence is evidence of a population that is influenced more than ever by public figures.

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Another finalist for word of the year was ‘prompt’. Although not the eventual winner (I’ll let you google the definition of ‘rizz’, if you’re not already familiar with the word), ‘prompt’ caught my attention as it refers to “an instruction given to an artificial intelligence (AI) program, algorithm, etc., which determines or influences the content it generates.” Oxford University Press notes that words relating to AI were particularly prominent in its data in 2023. And there is further evidence of this in a selection of other ‘Word of the Year’ winners announced by different organisations. The Collins English Dictionary selected ‘AI’ as its top word, while both the Cambridge Dictionary and plumped for ‘hallucinate’, meaning when AI produces false information and presents it as if true and factual.

The team at Cambridge Dictionary explains that hallucinate was chosen as its word of the year as it gets to the heart of why people are talking about AI: “Generative AI is a powerful tool but one we’re all still learning to interact with safely and effectively.” Creating new language to understand this new technology is just one step in the process of learning how best to utilise AI while being aware of its potential weaknesses (and dangers).

The latest edition of Airswift’s ‘Global Energy Talent Index’ (GETI) shines a light on current attitudes towards AI in the energy sector. The annual energy workforce trends report, which surveyed nearly 12 000 energy professionals in 149 countries, highlights a cautious approach to AI adoption in the oil and gas sector. The report suggests that 24% of oil and gas professionals currently use AI, with 47% of respondents very optimistic about the future impact of AI. The majority of professionals expect AI to result in an uplift in their personal productivity (71%) and increase their job satisfaction (58%). Interestingly, AI uptake in the petrochemicals sector seems to be a little higher, with 30% of professionals already using AI and 82% of professionals feeling positive about the future impact of AI.

The report also indicates an awareness amongst workers that AI will increase demand for skills, with 62% of oil and gas professionals expecting AI to increase pressure on them to acquire new skills.

While it is positive to see the energy industry embracing the prospect of AI, the sector faces a difficult challenge to ensure that its workforce is equipped with the necessary skills to harness the full potential of this exciting new technology. As Janette Marx, CEO of Airswift, wisely points out in the GETI report, there is a delicate balance to be struck between technological advancement and nurturing the skills of the sector’s workforce.

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